Residents in County Durham are being reassured they can still receive housing advice and support during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Durham County Council’s Housing Solutions continue to deliver advice and assistance, as well as the statutory homelessness duty, to ensure support is provided to those who are homeless, in social housing, or in the private rented sector.
Following national government guidance, the Housing Solutions teams are continuing to support the county’s residents throughout this uncertain time.
Whilst housing advice is primarily being delivered through telephone or email, the teams continue to engage with rough sleepers face-to-face, while following social distancing guidelines, and are offering advice, support and sourcing accommodation.
The teams have recently received food donations from food retailer Greggs whilst Tesco, in Durham Market Place, has agreed for officers to visit daily to get a selection of reduced-price sandwiches to hand out to anyone sleeping rough at this time.
Over the last two weeks, the teams have also continued to carry out daily checks on those identified as sleeping rough in the county and are working with accommodation providers to secure suitable housing, including securing emergency places for those needing to self-isolate.
To protect both renters and landlords in private or social accommodation sectors, the government announced a package of supportive measures. The council has a dedicated team within Housing Solutions who are working closely with private landlords and their tenants to assist and provide support with these measures.
As part of this announcement, a three-month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.
In addition, emergency legislation has been taken forward so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation need to be concerned about the threat of eviction.
Similarly, the government has announced there will be no new evictions for anyone in the social housing sector, including those who cannot pay their rent for financial reasons.
Durham Key Options (DKO) has sent a message to all active applicants on the housing register informing them of any changes to delivery across the partnership as a result of government guidelines. The council is working closely with DKO and private landlords throughout the region to source accommodation for urgent cases.
Housing Providers will continue to operate under their own individual business continuity plans in terms of allocating, advertising and providing advice and support. Customers should contact their local provider for further information and advice.
Cllr Kevin Shaw, Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets at Durham County Council, said: “I want to assure residents that our Housing Solutions team continue to work tirelessly during the Coronavirus pandemic to provide information, advice, guidance and support to residents, partners and landlords.
“Most importantly, whilst the new initiatives introduced by government go some way to help prevent evictions and homelessness during these unprecedented times, further action is needed, and this should include increased benefit levels and rent relief.”
For further information or to receive housing support, visit www.durham.gov.uk/covid19housing